Chronicles from the Moyle Soviet…..Style over content and forgo the notion, if one exists, that via this blog you the reader may be carried along in some splendidly evocative swirl. Do allow for some verbal pyrotechnics while I promote my claim on the truth about questions of local governance, national and geo-political decision making that can impact on our lives. And a light-hearted sprinkling of places and characters with some pictures to complete.
A Council plan to bulldoze Dundarave football pitch and newly constructed changing facilities in the centre of the village of Bushmills has been described by a Councillor as; “A blatant attack on the working class community of Woodvale and Dundarave”.
The pitch and changing facilities were developed, only five years ago, by the legacy Moyle District Council with an estimated three quarters of a million pounds investment. Plans to waste that investment, meant to support working class communities have been savaged by one former Moyle Councillor.
The comments, from the most unlikely of sources, emanated from Independent Glens Councillor Padraig McShane.
He spoke out after a Tourism Parking study commissioned by Council indicated that Dundarave football pitch should be used as an overspill for the Giants Causeway World Heritage Site and a signed petition from residents was ignored by senior executives.
The Councillor stated;
“I attended a familiarisation trip to several sites in the village with a number of Councillors. Before studies into the most suitable sites have been completed, a Council Executive was advising that only Dundarave football pitch will seriously be considered for new parking.
“I posed several questions highlighting the Covenants and planning restrictions that existed on the lands. In addition I asked about the need for ‘green spaces’ and leisure facilities adjacent to residents but the questions were dismissed. The health benefits of green space adjacent to working class residential communities are proven to enhancing life chances.
“In addition I asked if there was a petition signed by up to 600 residents in the village campaigning to retain the football pitch and the newly constructed changing facilities. Senior Executives did indicate there was a petition but unbelievable, they dismissed its relevance.
“There is clear evidence that private Business interests in the village have influence at Executive level in Council and are riding roughshod over the interests of working class communities. The document presented to Council and giving a scoring matrix on sites did not at any stage consider the impact on the community. I raise these points not only for Bushmills, but numerous projects that seem on the surface to be legitimate but, on closer inspection, have preordained outcomes.
“The idea that we remove these facilities from the heart of the community and provide them on an edge of or out of settlement location beggars belief!”
Anyone requiring further information is asked to contact Councillor McShane on 07828112129
Glens Independent Councillor Padraig McShane says he believes Transport NI will make the correct decision in relation to attempts to have an abandonment order placed on a stretch of the Carrickmore Road.
Speaking this week before a meeting between Transport NI, objectors and the applicant for the abandonment order, Councillor McShane said;
“No reasonable grounds exist for the public body to walk away from this important stretch of highway.
“It serves a very important purpose and has done for many decades, indeed a few centuries. Give the archeological, historical and geological significance of the area it shall continue to do so for many more to come.
“Its importance to the local community alongside visitors to the area as a quiet and picturesque retreat and its ease of access for vehicular traffic for those with disabilities to enjoy the location, are also important considerations when making a decision on any notions of abandonment of a public road.
“While not wishing to preempt any outcomes, common sense would indicate a public body will not forgo the public interest on this application”.
If the new facilities were developed in Dungiven, it would reduce revenue (annual year on year) costs by £70,000 for the new Causeway Coast and Glens Council. That is £70,000 saved each year, largely due to energy efficiencies found in new construction methods. To put it in context. That is £70,000 per year over the lifetime of the centre, taken at an average 40 years. That equates to £2.8million saving for the rate payer in the district – less the £350,000 initial capital investment. I can not stress this enough.
What is holding back Dungiven is equally holding back development in Cushendall, the Glens, Ballycastle and Loughgiel. Each an area of historical inequality and underinvestment.
The reality for the new government authority is plain. If they wish to invest to enhance community and sporting facilities, they are obliged to do so in Nationalist and Republican areas where that historic inequality will require a generation of investment to balance out with those Councils who delivered for one section of the community. The stats are backed up by countless workshops and research done within and outwith the Council.
For the Glens Ward (Rathlin Ballycastle Loughgiel Waterfoot Cushendun Cushendall) inequalities to be addressed, it is vitally important that a common sense and business like approach is taken to Dungiven to release additional capital for the future. Other more unpalatable avenues are open to us as Councillors to raise funds should sectarianism continue to be the final arbitrator.
I was pleased to be asked to speak at the debate on Dungiven sports facilities last night in the County Derry town.
At the public meeting, those Unionists opposed to investing in Dungiven give no logically compelling, deeply informed or rational reason for blocking a perfectly sensible business case. That speaks for itself.
A proposal to withdraw funding of £33,000 from a soccer pitch in Bushmills caused uproar in Moyle District Council. The Council had planned to invest the money on pitch improvements to allow Bushmills the chance for promotion in the soccer leagues.
But following a request for additional funds to facilitate a bonfire Independent Councillor Padraig McShane requested,
“The money is withdrawn until such times as the Council could satisfy itself there would be no more criminal damage at the football facility in Dundarave”.
Councillor Padraig McShane made the proposal after recommendations for additional money came to Council following a meeting with the Bushmills Bonfire Review Committee. The recommendations included an option to move the pitch at an additional cost of £27,500.
After receiving confirmation that damage had been caused to the facility in the past and the clean-up had cost the rate payer considerable money year on year, Councillor McShane said he could not allow rate payers money to be spent on facilities that are continually being destroyed.
Councillor McShane said;
“The bonfire review committee and local Councillors had to come to their senses. A normal society could never justify spending public funds in the full knowledge that it would go up in smoke.
“Political representatives locally are unwittingly developing communities which aspire to nothing beyond the momentary consolations of material contentment. Apologies are made for naked sectarianism and the destruction of public property in the pursuit of a fictional culture.
“Common sense offers us the chance to reject this type of practise despite everything in local politics urging us to tolerate this behaviour. It took twenty minutes and sustained reasoning to convince colleagues of the merits of withdrawing this funding in Council.
“The sheer abnormality of spending ratepayers’ money on facilities we know are going to be burnt on the 11th night can only be comparable with funding the purchase of white crosses, a can of petrol and a box of matches for the Klu Klux Klan.”
The Glens will be retained in the domain name of the super council. The new model, stretching from Greysteel near Derry City to Waterfoot in the Glens of Antrim, being brought in under the Review of Public Administration will merge Moyle Limavady, Coleraine and Ballymoney councils.
Independent Councillor Padraig McShane welcomed the move saying it was essential for the development and security of the Causeway Coast and Glens brand. In addition it will make sure the business sector is not disenfranchised in the Glens area.
“I welcome the fact that both the DUP & UUP in Ballymoney and Coleraine have been brought to their senses. The first proposal was both sectarian and partisan. No reasonable argument could be presented to sustain the proposal to drop the Glens”.
Councillor McShane had promised to take the matter to the courts with a judicial review being proposed should the transition committee have decided to drop the Glens from the domain name.
Coleraine Councillor George Duddy who was keen to remove the Glens from the domain name of the new Super Council
“It’s ironic that it was Coleraine DUP Councillor George Duddy who proposed the domain name to include the Glens in the title. He had been one of the most vocal proponents of dropping the Glens.
“Those set out to intentionally disenfranchise anyone on the basis of their culture or religion have learned a valuable lesson I feel. A judicial review will go with attempts to do either both now and in the future.
“The domain name should never have been an issue. I would hope the unfortunate episode can now be set to the side and the committee can perform on the basis of equality and need”.
Independent Councillor Padraig McShane (pic) said that a proposal being considered by the Causeway Coast & Glens transition committee to remove the ‘Glens’ from the domain name was the beginning of a process aimed at stripping the political, cultural and economic identity of the people of Ballycastle and the Glens.
The transitional committee of the Causeway Coast & Glens super council will face a legal challenge if they vote to drop the ‘Glens’ from the Council’s domain name. The warning came from Moyle Independent Councillor Padraig McShane, who went on to describe the proposed move as; “the beginning of a process that would lead to the introduction of ‘political and cultural apartheid’ in Ballycastle and the Glens”.
Councillor McShane has spent a number of months working with individuals from the tourism sector in the area. He advised them to take a ‘judicial review’ of any adverse decision emanating from the transition committee.
The Councillor stated;
“It is clear that Unionists in both Coleraine and Ballymoney are keen to rid themselves of the Glens badge in any future Council. But the reason to do so does not contain one logically compelling, deeply informed, or conceptually arresting argument”.
Solicitor Michael Brentnall from Robert Murtagh & Co, representing an client from the Glens stated;
“If as Councillor McShane has indicated, the Causeway Coast and Glens transition committee intends to proceed with the omission of the “Glens” from the domain name of the new council, then the consequences will be clearly detrimental to our client. In this instance our client will have no option but to challenge such a decision through the courts.”
Councillor Padraig McShane continued;
“For a short time I entertained the misguided hope that political Unionism, both in Coleraine and Ballymoney, might rise above what has distinguished Unionist politics on this island. But it is clear from the latest move that, ‘The Green Glens of Antrim’, from Glentaise in Ballycastle to Glenariff in Waterfoot, are a shade too green for some Unionists.
“Ballycastle and the Glens are steeped in Gaelic tradition and culture. The fusion of language, music and sports will make up an integral and desirable part of any new political considerations for local government. Councillors in Ballymoney and Coleraine must begin to embrace the area and look upon it as the asset it is.
“And decision made by the members of the transition committee must be morally sound. If the wish is to disenfranchise an entire area because of its political or religious makeup, then I can confirm that legal repercussions will accompany any and all those decisions both now and in the future.
Councillor McShane finished by suggesting;
“The old order and the undiluted power that was accorded to it is being erased from the pages of time. Those Councillors who incubate a desire to return to the ‘failed political model’ of the past should avail of the opportunity to retire.
SOME OF THE MANY HEALTHCARE SERVICES LOST UNDER STORMONT / TORY CUTS
An Independent Councillor has described the relationship between the Stormont Executive and those local Councillors who are party to that same Executive as, “The most pathetic of all political nostalgia’s”. He also warned ‘Executive’ Party Councillors not to treat the local community as fools.
“Councillors locally are shedding crocodile tears while their party colleagues in the Stormont Executive are delivering ‘death by a thousand cuts’ to our local health care provision”, Stated Independent Councillor Padraig Mc Shane.
The Councillor was reacting to the closure of six beds at Dalriada Hospital in Ballycastle.
Explaining Councillor McShane continued;
“The Stormont Executive delivered cuts to the Health Care budget in the Northern Trust area totalling forty-four million between 2009-11. At the time the Ulster Unionist Health Minister Michael Mc Gimpsey ordered savings to be made which included the downgrading of the M.S. Center in Dalriada.
“Two years later, and in what many will see as a certain deficiency of tragic sense, two local Ulster Unionist Councillors attempt to attack the cuts their Minister and party colleague implemented with the support of the entire Executive – by blaming others!
Councillor McShane continued;
“The proclamations of both Councillors Baird and Hunter would mercifully indicate that in fact, they hadn’t a clue what was happening. Their claims that it had come “Out of the blue” in addition to “As far as we know there has been no consultation”, was the strongest indications of that fact.
“The Councillors performance in the press last week was only ever a hymn of political triumphalism. Should they however, wish to ‘breech a moment of moral clarity’, they could join with me in calling for a more left leaning, service delivering political system that would ensure the vibrancy of our health care system going into the future”.
So Who Is Making The Cuts & Why!
Councillor McShane said it was too simple to suggest the Stormont Administration were administering cuts on behalf of the Tory Administration.
“The British Exchequer bailed out the private banking system by almost four hundred billion in ‘quantitative easing’. To offset the huge losses encountered by the private sector, the social sector had to endure the most significant cuts since the foundation of the Social Welfare State.
“In essence Stormont is facilitating that process and we in Moyle are seeing the repercussions first hand. Rathmoyle Residential Care and Day Care, X-Ray facilities in Dalriada, Glenmona in Cushendun, Ambulance Provision in the Glens, Mental Health Care downgraded in Dalriada and the constant threat of the closure of the Hospital entirely are only some of the effects of the most ‘disadvantaged’ and ‘at risk’ being asked to bail out the private banking institutions by Stormont and the Tory Administration”.
Roads Service has wrote to Moyle District Council to inform that there is a scheme proposal being developed to provide a Vehicle Restraint System (crash barriers) opposite number 147 Cushendall Road. The confirmation follows a campaign by Independent Councillor Padraig Mc Shane to have safety measures put in place at the accident black spot.
But the Councillor remains unhappy and has requested the Council now write to the DRD Minister to implement the programme as he claims the project is not time bound and may not be in place for a number of years.
Councillor Mc Shane said;
“The scheme is not included in the current works programme and may not be for years to come given the decimation of the Minor Works budget that funds the safety measures proposed.
“The site has witnessed numerous accidents going back a number of years with an intense proliferation in the last number of weeks. Five cars have been involved in serious accidents there in the last month”.
The Divisional Roads Manager, Deidre Mackle in a letter to Moyle Council stated;
“Progress of this scheme through to prioritisation within a future years works programme will be subject to funding availability along with a number of other key issues including the successful acquisition of any land required”.
Councillor Mc Shane finished by stating;
“Stormont has hammered the budgets for the Northern Division of Roads Service. The minor works budget has decreased to less than half a million pounds for an area that stretches from Derry to Belfast. The budget was many times that amount in the past. Ultimate responsibility with the required safety measures now rest with the Minister”.
It has been at the centre of controversy for several years but is still one of the most popular walks on the North Antrim Coast and recently, Moyle District Council placed two summer seats next to the public Car Park at Marconi’s Cottage, Carrickmore Road. Hundreds of walkers use the road on a weekly basis taking in the beautiful surroundings of the place where the Coast Road hugs the contour of the Straits of Moyle. In what many will view as Moyle District Council laying claim to the area for the local community and enthusiastic walkers, Independent Councillor Padraig Mc Shane proposed the installation of the summer seats and a waste paper basket.
On completion Councillor Mc Shane welcomed the new furnishings saying;
“The public love the area and it is especially popular with local walkers. Many had indicated the need to install the seats and I’m pleased the Council facilitated their wishes”.
Following numerous phone calls to the Elected Reps emergency response line of DRD Road Service over the previous 48 hours and with no positive outcome, I issued a press release highlighting the inability of Road Service to respond in a crisis situation on the evening of Sunday 24th March.
I suggested the government body was penny pinching and were more mindful of budgets than helping those trapped in their homes without electricity, water or essentials including food and heat.
What I had been calling for was for Road Service to task more machinery to Roads were people were completely trapped. I had machinery organised and ready to continue clearing roads. Roads Service refused to task them.
Following an interview on Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme, Road Service in a P.R. exercise helped to deflect my criticism by indicating that the plant may not have been suitable or that there may have been problems with insurance. This was utter folly as the contractors were fully insured, working previously for Road Service (something I informed them of and that they seemed to know all to well) and had similar and more advanced plant than some that was already on the ground. But worse was to follow;
Some of my colleagues in Moyle were fit to praise Road Service from the comfort of their armchairs in Ballycastle while not having a clue what was happening on the ground. When people do not know what is happening on the ground, it is essential they do not comment as they only frustrate emergency response situations and allow the likes of DRD Road Service off the hook for their inaction over a crucial 48 hour period. In part the large loss of livestock we are now witnessing is down to the inaction of DRD Road Service in clearing roads and allowing access to the animals.
In finishing I also recognise that many other colleagues were on the ground and played a significant role in helping to gain a response for the community in the Middle Glens area. I also recognise that they found DRD up to the task presented and were happy with the efforts of the body. I can only rely what I witnessed myself in those negotiations and efforts to task more machinery to the Greenans Road, Torr Road, Stroan Road and Ballyvennaght among others. Five diggers lay idle only a short distance away. Snow blowers also lay idle in several locations throughout the North and were never tasked even though the areas they were stored in had no snow whatsoever.
Several employees from DRD Roads Service informed me of this. When I challenged the DRD and asked them to bring them to the Glens they refused. I was put on hold and then asked to speak to a supervisor who seemed more concerned with who in his department had shared the information than actually admitting that they themselves had not, after all, tasked all available resources as had previously been claimed.
Danny Kennedy DRD Minister
A full inquiry is essential should the unique and dreadful conditions ever manifest themselves again so we may learn from the mistakes of the last number of days. I will be calling on Moyle District Council to request a dedicated meeting with DRD Minister Danny Kennedy to give everyone a chance to respond with their concerns on the failings of the emergency operation.